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Hayabusa2 Asteroid Samples Safely Arrive at Earth

Hayabusa2, the asteroid sample return mission from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Japan’s Institute for Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) dropped off its treasured cargo Dec. 6, 2020 when the sample return capsule parachuted to a soft landing in the Australian desert near Woomera.

hayabusa2 landing site 

Landing site of the sample return capsule in Australia. The field team is retrieving the capsule, and its treasured cargo, for transport to Sagamihara Campus Research Laboratory in Kanagawa, Japan. Credit: JAXA/ISAS. 

The cargo contains two sets of samples from asteroid 162173 Ryugu. The samples from Chamber A were acquired during the spacecraft’s first touchdown and provide material from the surface of this C-type asteroid – the first samples of a C-type ever returned to Earth! Chamber C contains particulates collected from the ejected material from the mission’s artificial crater experiment, and provides potential samples of subsurface materials. Many particles in both chambers are larger than 1millimeter, with the particles from Chamber C being typically larger than those from Chamber A. 

chamber a hayabusa2

View of samples from Chamber A through an optical microscope. These samples are from Ryugu’s surface. Credit: JAXA/ISAS. 

Many of PSI’s science staff have contributed to this mission, both to the remote sensing observations and operations during the asteroid encounter phase and, now, to the sample analysis phase. Senior Scientists Faith Vilas and Amanda Hendrix will be working with Tohoku University to examine the UV spectral properties of the samples. Senior Scientist Deborah Domingue will also be working with members of JAXA/ISAS and Tohoku University to examine the spectro-photometric properties of these particulates from Ryugu. 

chamber c hayabusa2

View of samples from Chamber C taken through an optical microscope. These samples provide potential material from Ryugu’s subsurface. The source of the artificial object is being explored, but it thought to be part of the sample cone. Credit: JAXA/ISAS.

March 7, 2021
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